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Wolf touts ‘milestone’ in nursing home COVID-19 vaccinations, but acknowledges gaps in reaching some seniors
Patriot-News - 2/23/2021
Gov. Tom Wolf on Tuesday said virtually all residents of skilled nursing homes in Pennsylvania have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, calling it a “milestone.”
He further said good progress is being made toward vaccinating residents of assisted living and personal care facilities, where vaccinations began later.
Much of the vaccination is being done by pharmacy chains CVS and Walgreens under a federal contract. Between the two, they have administered about 300,000 doses of vaccine at about 600 skilled nursing homes.
“So we’re fortunate to have excellent partners working with us to achieve this milestone,” Wolf said.
Alison Beam, the acting secretary of health singled out CVS, crediting the chain “for the tremendous amount of resources they have invested.” Walgreens, which is responsible for fewer facilities, has been slower, although Beam wasn’t critical and said “we’re grateful.”
Pennsylvania has about 700 skilled nursing homes, but some opted out of the federal partnership and have relied on their regular pharmacies. Beam said the state is working with those facilities to make sure they are able to vaccinate their residents.
Long-term care industry leaders paint a more critical picture of Pennsylvania’s progress in vaccinating long-term care residents. They note vaccinations in nursing homes didn’t begin until about two weeks later than some states, and are critical of the fact that vaccinations didn’t begin at assisted living and personal care homes until it was well underway at nursing homes.
On Tuesday, Adam Marles, the CEO of LeadingAge PA., which represents non-profit long-term care providers, credited the state for “stepping up once they realized how far behind they were.”
However, he contends Pennsylvania still hasn’t made sufficient progress in vaccinating assisted living and personal care residents. Marles further says Pennsylvania lacks a plan for vaccinating seniors living in independent living and affordable housing facilities.
He has argued those seniors are often located in the same building or campus as the people being vaccinated by CVS and Walgreens, and it makes sense to vaccinate them at the same time. Marles claims his organization could have helped overcome the problem, but wasn’t given a role in planning.
Wolf denied that Pennsylvania lacks a plan, although he said “it’s a plan that can be made much better … we need to continue to look for ways to get this limited supply of vaccines out to a very large number of people who really want one now.”
A CVS official said Tuesday all residents of the 1,800 assisted living and personal care facilities that CVS is handling will have received two vaccine doses by mid-March. It was unclear Tuesday when that point will be reached at the facilities being handled by Walgreens, which didn’t have a representative at the news briefing.
A state official said Pennsylvania’s overall supply of COVID-19 vaccine increased by more than 80,000 doses from last week. All told, “well over 400,000 doses” will arrive in Pennsylvania this week when including doses to Philadelphia, which gets a separate supply, and doses shipped to federally supported health centers.
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